Episode 7 of Pachinko begins in Yokohama 1923 with a young Hansu heading home to his father. Together, the pair head out to a boxing ring where Hansu is given a big opportunity to work with the Yakuza. His father rarely praises Hansu but does point out to Ryoichi that he’s good with calculations.
Hansu and his father politely reject the offer though, given Hansu currently has a job working as a tutor for an American family, the Holmes. That’s quite the lucrative gig, but for now Ryoichi, the boss in these parts, scoffs at this but reminds Hansu that if he works hard, he can become one of them.
Now, Andrew (the son of the Holmes family) isn’t doing too well with his language and encourages his parents to take Hansu with him over to America. Hansu deliberates over this, as he sits with his father later on and they discuss their changing fates.
For Hansu’s dad, he believes you only need to be good at one thing but excel above everyone else. When he learns about the opportunity in America, Hansu’s father tells him to grab this with both hands and go for it. Given this interferes with Hansu’s world view and the belief that they’d always be together, this certainly leaves conflicted.
Unfortunately, trouble is brewing behind the scenes. It turns out Hansu’s father has actually taken money from the Yakuza ($200). The money is gone and because of that, it puts Hansu in a very difficult position. Apparently Hansu’s father gave it to a woman that was begging him for help.
Hansu can’t understand why he acted this way (his father points out hr’s never been in love and as such how could he) but even worse, the woman he gave the money to has already handed it over to a friend. He’s got until the noon bell the following day to pay up or there will be trouble.
Hansu contemplates taking the money from the Holmes in order to pay his fathers’ debt. When he suggests it and reminds his father how dangerous Ryoichi actually is, Hansu’s father beats his son down as a way of trying to instil in him hatred and to think of him dead. As he walks away, Hansu sobs.
Hansu’s loyalty to his family is too great and he heads in to see Ryoichi, promising to work off his father’s debt. Hansu claims that generosity is far more powerful than outright revenge, and uses that to try and convince the Yakuza to see his way.
The Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 then hits and it causes complete devastation. Hansu is knocked out, his father is killed and the whole town is choked in a thick cloud of white dust. The blend of visuals and stark silence during this portion really hammers home the devastation.
With Hansu-s father now dead, it leaves Hansu and Ryoichi to talk together. In fact, Ryoichi tells him to go abroad with “that Yankee family” and make a name for himself.
Unfortunately, the path from Andrew and Mrs Holmes down to Mr Holmes (who happens to be on the pier) is fraught with peril. The whole city is ablaze, there are people moving all over the place and unfortunately in the ensuing scramble, Hansu is separated from the Americans. However, he happens to find Ryoichi, who’s still looking for his own family and he decides to follow him.
As they make it out of the city, the time strikes 8.48pm and Hansu uncovers the dead bodies of both Andrew and Mrs Holmes. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but even worse is to come.
Given what’s happened with the earthquake, there’s also been a massive prison break-out too. 300 Korean prisoners are among those who have escaped. Now, given Hansu is also Korean, he begins to fear for his life as he realizes there are going to be swarms of Japanese looking for them. He hurries away with Ryoichi and tries to hide. Thankfully they find a carpet seller who helps hide them form the Japanese.
Hansu tries to stay as quiet as he can as he witnesses the fugitives burned alive, despite the carpet seller attempting to send the horde in the other direction.
Hours pass, specifically up until 2.12am, and Ryoichi notices a whole bunch of refugees on the road. Ryiochi is reunited with his family but he encourages Hansu to join him, given he’s all by himself on the other side of the bridge. He tells the family that they’re going to look after him for a while, pointing out his father’s debt.
While the family sleep, Hansu awakens at daybreak and looks out at the bleak world before him. His sadness and anger dissipate into steely resolve.
The Episode Review
With over 100,000 deaths as a result of this brutal earthquake, Pachinko’s penultimate episode is an absolute powerhouse o acting, cinematography and sound design. Instead of skipping back and forth between the different time periods, Pachinko instead settles on one specific moment in history – 1923 – and allows us to understand Hansu’s journey to becoming the ruthless, cold and calculated businessman we’ve known him to be in the previous chapters.
Lee Min-Ho’s acting during all of this is nothing short of magnificent and that final scene, resting on his face as he turns from sadness and sorrow across to anger and then steely resolve, is beautifully done and it tops off what’s otherwise a stunning episode.
The decision just to keep things solely with Hansu this time around is a stroke of genius and it actually works really well to round out his character. It also allows for a bit of a stop-gap between what’s come before, solidifying this as one of the best K-dramas this year and certainly in the running for best TV show too